Readers will recall that the Canadian government announced in 2021 that September 30th would be the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (“NDTR”), a new federal statutory holiday. The purpose of the holiday is to honour First Nations, Inuit and Métis Survivors and their families and communities and to ensure that public commemoration of their history and the legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process. The date was selected in part because it approximates the time of year Indigenous children were historically taken from their homes to residential schools.
After consulting with Indigenous partners and communities and BC employers and employees, BC has announced that it will be also be recognizing September 30th as a provincial statutory holiday effective this year. The BC government has just introduced legislation to do so, which will likely be passed shortly. BC will join Canada, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon as jurisdictions that have designated September 30th as a statutory holiday.
As previously discussed, employers are understandably concerned that introducing a new statutory holiday imposes significant cost and inconvenience on them. All B.C. employers must now provide statutory holiday pay for all but very part-time employees and either provide employees with a day off when it falls on a working day or, for those who work the stat, pay the holiday plus stat holiday premium pay for hours actually worked on the stat.
NDTR brings the total number of statutory holidays in BC to 11, which surpasses the number in the other larger provinces and is well above global norms, even in holiday-loving Europe. For a typical employee, the stat holiday pay alone amounts to a .4% wage hike coupled with a corresponding loss in productivity.
The date of the NDTR, while historically significant, is problematic from an HR and employee perspective in that:
- It falls close to two existing statutory holidays, Labour Day and Thanksgiving, with the latter falling a little over a week later; and
- Unlike some statutory holidays which always fall on a Monday (or Friday), it will fall on a different day of the week each year, making it less convenient for employees and their families to combine with a weekend most years. In this regard, employers could consider the ESA option to substitute another day off with employee majority support when it falls mid-week, as some already do for November 11.
Employers concerned about the total cost of statutory holidays in B.C. or maintaining equity between employees in other provinces could consider taking Boxing Day or Easter Monday off their list of observed statutory holidays since neither are actually legally mandated. If loss of productivity on the statutory day off is the key concern, employers could consider not giving the Monday off when stat holidays fall on normal days off such as Saturday or Sunday, since this common practise is not required by the ESA. If so, the time to make these changes is now in connection with the introduction of NDTR. Such changes may not be appreciated by employees, however.
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